California Scrambles to Enlist Latinos in Obamacare

Fear immigration of officials and poor marketing blamed for low enrollment

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Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Maria Franco (R) explains health insurance to Violet Lucas-Barajas, 28, at an event to inform people about the Affordable Care Act and donate turkeys to 5,000 needy families, in Los Angeles, California, November 25, 2013.

Officials in California are struggling to convince the state’s Latino population to enroll in state insurance exchanges in line with  President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, according to the New York Times.

The state’s Latino population has reportedly accounted for only an estimated 20 percent or less of the participants who have signed up with the state-run health insurance exchange since the end of last year.

Critics have pointed to a failure to provide Spanish-language applications earlier in the process, translation errors on the exchange’s website and lingering fears that enrollment in the program may catch the eye of immigration officials.

“We hear all the time of families where one parent could help their children enroll, but they fear that the information is going to be sent to immigration authorities,” Ellen Wu, the executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, told the Times.

According to the Times, California is home to approximately 15 percent of the U.S.’s uninsured population. The state’s ability to enroll uninsured Californians has been deemed crucial to making sure the system functions nationally.